In 1852-3 the church was restored to designs by William Butterfield, who evidently intended to remove all features later than 1400AD. The east window was replaced by one in 13th-century style, and a new, more steeply pitched roof was made over the chancel. The tower staircase was removed from the north transept, the chapel of which was converted into a vestry, and in the angle of the chancel and the transept, a new staircase and a boiler house were built. In the south transept, the early 18th century windows were replaced by lancets similar to the 13th-century style. The west wall of the nave was largely rebuilt and the window in it reformed as three double lancets. Nearly all the furnishings, including the west gallery, a 15th-century rood screen, and an early 13th-century font, were removed from the church.
The great rebuilding phase of the mid-19th century entailed the demolition and radical restoration of 37 churches across south-east Wiltshire.
William Butterfield was prominent in this, and Amesbury is an example of his High Victorian restoration work. Butterfield was a great exponent of the Gothic revival style and his chief interest was in ecclesiastical buildings.
Following his work at Amesbury, he undertook many prestigious commissions and was known for his use of discordant materials with bright contrasts.
The Victorian passion for Gothic often destroyed the object of its devotion, especially in the heyday of ecclesiological restoration from 1840 to 1870. Authentic medieval features were destroyed at a much faster rate than previously.
Butterfield’s works of restoration were not as happy as his original designs and, although having a genuine love of old buildings, he could produce misinterpretations of antiquity. At Amesbury, for instance, he removed most of the 14th-century fittings and burned or smashed the monuments.
The work he undertook at Amesbury was quite extensive. However, only 50 years later, the crossing nearly collapsed, and the church needed primary repairs.
Butterfield’s proposals for Amesbury were:
“Present fittings, including gallery, to be removed.
Whole church refitted and reseated with oak furnishings.
Church to be drained, the floor raised to ensure dryness and repaved in tiles and stone.
Tower staircase removed to the outside. Belfry repaired.
Chapel in north transept fitted as a vestry.
Furnace room to be built and hot water pipes installed.
A great many general repairs. A new oak roof with stone slates on the chancel.
FW Fowle to erect a new east window of five light width in the chancel, in keeping with the side windows. Mrs Frederick Booth to erect a new west window.
Rev’d Rob’t W James to erect a new window and doorway in the gable of the south transept.”
The Church’s Restoration
In eighteen – eighty – three
Has left for contemplation
Not what there used to be.